GRAND FORKS — Austin Seymour's kitchen is his classroom.

Sitting at home, he worked on economics lessons on an iPad. But it wasn't the test questions that were hard for the 18-year-old Grand Forks Red River High School Senior. Seymour is learning how to use his hands again after a near death experience two months ago on a January night when the temperature dropped to 19 degrees below zero.

"I couldn't feel the difference between smooth and rough," Seymour said, calling his gradual recovery from the incident a "miracle."

At around 1:30 in the morning on Jan. 20, Seymour was wandering University Avenue in Grand Forks near the University of North Dakota wearing only a hoodie and sweatpants, looking for help.

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"There was nothing out there, nobody was out there, nobody would answer the door," he said. "I remember trying to text on my phone, and I was screaming because my fingers were turning purple."

As he became disoriented from the onset of hypothermia, a woman walking near Memorial Stadium noticed and called 911.

Doctors would later tell Seymour it was just in time — his body temperature had dropped to 90 degrees and he was anywhere between 3 and 10 minutes from death, Seymour recalled.

Seymour recovers in the hospital after nearly freezing to death in January.
Seymour recovers in the hospital after nearly freezing to death in January.

His frostbite was so severe he was flown to a Minneapolis burn unit, where the avid hunter and lacrosse player was given devastating news by doctors: it was highly likely he would lose his fingers at the middle knuckle.

But after a grim prognosis, Seymour's recovery has exceeded expectations. Though he still can't move or feel with his dominant right hand, his left hand is no longer wrapped in bandages. Already ahead of schedule, doctors believe Seymour will make a full recovery.

"Looking back two months, I thought I was dead . . . nobody is invincible, you get one shot at it," he said, hoping his story will remind others to always dress appropriately for the weather. Seymour said he had his hat, gloves and a jacket that night, but just didn't think he needed to put them on.

It's unclear exactly why he was out in the cold the night he nearly died and he can't disclose much because there is a police investigation into the incident. Right now it's known that he had left a friend's house.

Austin still needs to travel to the Twin Cites every two weeks for treatment, and that's expected to continue for a few more months.

Medical expenses so far have reached $140,000. A GoFundMe page has been setup to help pay for them.

Forum News Service reporter Tess Williams contributed to this article.